The controversy over Crocs makes me laugh.
Not because the shoes might be short-circuiting medical equipment in Sweden, but because these brightly coloured clogs are so hideously ugly that I can’t believe anyone wears them at all, let alone almost everyone that I know, their dogs, and their children too, and the populations of 80 other countries.
The first time I saw a lifeguard wearing them, I was alarmed. Her slippers or whatever they were — Crocs, I would later learn — were fluorescent orange and made her feet look monstrous, like they were hiding abnormally thick toes.
I wondered, ‘Why is this pretty young woman wearing plastic Dutch clogs?’
A few years later, pretty much everyone that I know — some very fashionable and very conservative people among them — are wearing Crocs, or some imitation of them.
Like LeSportsac purses and Edwin jeans during my high school years, and Carhartt pants in the Yukon, Crocs are omnipresent.
They were supposed to be for gardening; now they are for everything. To me, they scream: “practical,” “on-the-go,” “comfortable,” “purposeful.” But mainly, they just scream to be noticed.
The Daily Mash, a UK-based online satire magazine similar to The Onion, jokes that medical research proves Crocs wearers are disillusioned.
“Crocs shoes will transform you from a normal adult into a horribly self-satisfied and ‘self-consciously whacky tosser,’ leading doctors warned last night.
“Donning the brightly coloured plastic footwear is likely to make middle class women believe their dress sense is a lot more interesting than it really is, the doctors added.
“Their research suggests Crocs may also encourage such women to think they are ‘a bit kooky’ and individual, when in reality they are just wearing stupid shoes aimed at kids, and copying all their friends.”
The Crocs craze has earned its share of detractors. In a world where there is a website for everything, there is indeed one for Crocs haters.
At www.ihatecrocs.com, you can find links to anti-croc T-shirts, videos of people blowing up Crocs with dynamite, cutting them up with scissors, a Facebook group dedicated to the cause, and fake Croc advertisements.
Despite my humble opinion and the not-so-subtle opinions of others, the Crocs brand and its copycats are being backed up by an earnest cult following. They might not have been a vocal group before, but now Crocs fans are speaking out.
For the sake of safety, more and more doctors and nurses at hospitals around the world are being asked to leave their Crocs at home.
Most hospitals, not unlike construction sites and restaurants, have strict policies about footwear. They want their staff to wear shoes with closed toes and heels to prevent tripping, ankle-twisting and catching on life-saving equipment, shoes that don’t have holes on the top, inviting a dropped needle or drops of patients’ blood.
It’s a wonder that Crocs got away with it for so long. Most hospitals cite long-standing policies against such footwear. And yet they are only enforcing the ban, or even considering a ban, on Crocs now, years after they began infiltrating the nurse’s uniform.
Those working in the medical profession have posted testimonials on the Crocs website, saying they feel like “pillows” or “marshmallows” on their feet. They are “a nurse’s best friend”; they can even “change your life.”
The shoe is an epidemic that hospitals weren’t ready for and few appeared willing to ban them outright.
The Swedish hospital changed all that. It has suggested that the static electricity caused by the foam shoe is short-circuiting life-saving medical equipment.
Blekinge Hospital in Karlskrona, in southern Sweden, wants Foppatoffels (Crocs and the like) banned. Three times, it said, equipment including a respirator for premature infants shut down after staff wearing the foam clogs were nearby.
Technicians there believe the plastic-like material of the shoes can enable up to 25,000 volts of electricity.
Medical workers wearing the shoes become “a cloud of lightning,” said the hospital. “There have more than likely been more incidents — both here and at other hospitals — where people have not made the connection with Foppatoffels.”
In a neonatal ward in Forde, Norway, a bili light used to treat newborns with jaundice faulted due to static electricity, reportedly created by the shoes.
Nurses, quoted in the media, admit they have been “shocking” their patients considerably more since they began wearing Crocs.
Still, they defend them. Unlike the old white leather nurse’s shoe, Crocs give hospital workers on their feet for 12 hours a day a cushiony sole and air holes that let their feet breath.
They also like the variety of colours that they can match up with their scrubs. Few appear worried about the syringes and bodily fluids hospital management is going on about.
It’s a workplace issue, something to be worked out between the hospitals and their staff, and none of our business, really, so long as their effect on life-saving equipment turns out to be untrue, or at least not an issue in Canada.
Will the controversy make the shoes more or less popular?
I suppose some Crocs-lovers will be forced to take a second look at how they’ve been dressing their feet.
And for those of us who have so far abstained from buying Crocs, we might be shamed into never giving in to our secret desire to join the club, or we will jump right in with both feet.
Juliann Fraser is a writer living in Whitehorse.